More on the Henrico Abstinence-only Situation…

Here’s an article from the Richmond Times Dispatch. We’ll be sure to follow-up with more about the repercussions of the yesterday’s Freeman High School Assembly as we hear them! And, this was the most viewed and most commented article in the Richmond Times Dispatch yesterday! Way to go NARAL Pro-Choice VA!

Abstinence-only speaker for Freeman stirs controversy
By Katherine Calos
Published: November 17, 2009
» 119 Comments | Post a Comment
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nowBuzz up!The scheduling of an abstinence-only speaker today at Douglas Freeman High School has drawn protests from some teachers, an abortion-rights organization, and a gay and lesbian education network.

Pam Stenzel, founder of Enlighten Communications Inc., “tackles today’s tough issues of sex with candor, insight, humor and the challenge for young people to get the abstinence advantage,” according to a description on her Web site.

That message is appropriate for high school students, Freeman Principal Anne L. Poates said in an e-mail to staff at the school Thursday. “No, it does not present all sides of this issue, as it is not a family life education presentation. Yes, it presents one choice — abstinence — as an important choice for teenagers in a way that seems to reach them and have a lasting impact.” Poates used the school’s phone-message system to offer the choice of opting out.

Michelle Gajda, a Freeman teacher who emphasized that she was speaking as a private citizen and not as a representative of the school, worried that Stenzel represents a conservative social agenda.

“She’s not apolitical, and that’s to be expected of a speaker in a public school,” Gajda said. “Her message is most often given [to], and is appropriate for, church audiences.”

An e-mail to Henrico Superintendent Patrick Russo said that more than 10 faculty members had written the principal in opposition. Russo replied that the School Board attorney had reviewed the matter and found no legal justification to prevent Stenzel from speaking.

The abortion-rights organization NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia wrote the principal, saying Stenzel’s previous presentations included “medically inaccurate myths.” The Richmond chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, in another letter, referred to religious bias that would add to the alienation felt by gay and lesbian students.

Stenzel has been asked to delete some portions of her usual speech, Gajda said, such as referrals to crisis pregnancy centers that counsel against abortions.

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Contact Katherine Calos at (804) 649-6433 or kcalos@timesdispatch.com.

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